The IT reseller channel isn't ready to sell videoconferencing, according to distributor Midwich, which has just agreed to terminate its deal with Sony to sell the technology.
Sony, which was Midwich's only videoconferencing vendor, ended the distribution deal after just under a year. Darren Lewitt, audio/video business manager at Midwich, blamed its "disappointing" videoconferencing sales on the channel into which it was trying to sell the Sony products.
Lewitt said he first tried to forge a way into the IT channel with videoconferencing five years ago, when he worked for PictureTel (now owned by Polycom).
"The IT channel wasn't ready for videoconferencing then," he said. "We thought the IT channel was ready for it now. But this suggests the IT channel isn't ready. Whether it will ever be ready for it, I don't know."
Sony will continue to distribute its videoconferencing line through audiovisual (AV) specialists Imago Micro and Review Video.
Ian Vickerage, managing director of Imago Micro, agreed that the IT channel struggles with videoconferencing. "A large part of the IT channel are box shifters, and videoconferencing is not a box-shifting business," he said.
Paul Hennessey, director of business-to-business at Sony UK, said: "Midwich is an extraordinarily successful distributor and videoconferencing was a new area for it. For us it was important to be with established videoconferencing vendors without over-distributing the market."
Midwich nevertheless remains bullish about its AV business and expects growth of 30 per cent this year to £30m, with projector sales growing by 75 per cent.
But Andrew Davis, a videoconferencing analyst at Wainhouse Research, cited the newly announced Polycom and Microsoft partnership, along with similar deals between Cisco and Tandberg, as evidence that the IT channel would prosper with videoconferencing.
"This technology is going to become another IT application," Davis said. He conceded that sales channels are a problem for videoconferencing vendors, but added: "Over time the IT channel will probably become the most important [route to market] because the products are evolving to fit an IT environment."
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